Only a quarter of Brussels’ restaurants are planning to be open on New Year’s Eve, compared to about half of them on a normal year.
The estimate comes from the Brussels Catering Federation, Bruzz reports, and those who are opening are running into issues related to the current coronavirus restrictions, which include an early closing time and limited capacity.
“Usually it’s one of the best nights of the year, it’s very festive, there are fireworks and people dance. Now we have to stop at 23:00 and we can’t get the restaurant full,” Hubert Debellefroid from The Lodge in Watermael-Boitsfort told Le Soir.
“At the moment I have about 35 reservations while I have room for 100 people.”
Early closing times deter diners
At Odette en Ville, owner Serge Litvine says a festive atmosphere in the restaurant doesn’t mesh well with early closing times.
“That restaurant is more festive and trendy, people want to come and have a drink there until 02:00,” Litvine said.
That isn’t possible under current Covid-19 restrictions, and management at the touristy Chez Léon in the Brussels city centre said the early closing times coupled with the closure of Christmas markets have given diners little incentive to make New Year’s Eve a night on the town.
“We have 200 reservations for a capacity of 450 people,” management said. “We had a few cancellations because of the closure of the Christmas market. And then there is the closing time of 23:00. People don’t want to be out at midnight.”
Never very popular in the first place
Some restaurant owners say New Year’s Eve wasn’t always the best night for Brussels hospitality in the past, anyways.
“Many guests who are in Brussels for work during the year are not in the country at that time,” Fabien Hermans of Horeca Brussels told Bruzz – a trend only accentuated by the pandemic.
Bruzz found that some restaurants are focusing instead on the lunch time potential of 31 December, given that there’s little to do in the capital on New Year’s Eve and the restaurants will have to close at 24:00.
Chef Tom Decroos of the Vismet restaurant and Serge Devreker of La Belle Maraîchère said they both hope that the afternoon of New Year’s Day can be a hit, more so than the traditional New Year’s Eve.